It’s a Monday night, around 8 p.m. Why a Monday night? Because I’m busy and that’s the only day I have open for shenanigans. I veer into the parking lot in my 2005 Volkswagen Passat with my fellow investigator, Shauna Pauli, in my passenger seat. After a questionable parking job, we hop out and run to the warm, neon safe haven of Vinyl Taco.
Immediately, we see a few people sitting in the waiting room on giant couches made out of old Coca-Cola coolers. Despite the place being completely full, we were offered two seats at the bar, which didn’t bother us any, as we were ready for a tasty margarita to celebrate the end of a stressful college Monday.
My poison of choice was a five-ounce raspberry margarita. Pauli opted for the strawberry margarita, and it proved to be the superior choice. We placed our food orders—a crispy chicken mango taco for me, and a chicken burrito sans chicken for the lady—and sipped our sugary elixirs while gazing around the room.
On top of the main bar area are sculptures of a giant chicken, a donkey and a rabbit reading a book. After some hard-hitting investigation by reading one of the pamphlets on the counter, I discovered the sculptures were made by a Mexican artist.
The other art that adorns the brick walls was made by local artists, depicting scenes of famous musicians and other vinyl vibes. Just the right amount of neon signs light the room in a fun multi-colored glow.
The menus are placed on the back of record covers. The menu offers a variety of basic or specialty tacos, burritos, chips and guac, and chimichangas. I shall return to test out the chimichanga one day.
My taco arrived in a speedy manner; certainly no longer than ten minutes. In a little rectangular paper tray sat the beauty that was my only meal of the day. A soft shell, almost like pita bread given its sturdiness, blanketed the taco. Stuffed inside was simply phenomenal chicken, with cute diced mango chunks scattered about, an onion vinaigrette poured over, and just the right amount of spinach for me: two leaves.
She was fairly small, but she was mighty. About halfway through, she kicked me with a lil’ spice.
I did not personally taste Pauli’s burrito so I cannot describe it in such fervor, but being as the whole thing had been eaten before we left, it must’ve been delicious enough to finish. It looked like if a burrito from Giliberto’s had a smaller, more sophisticated son.
The music was a pleasure to the ears and sensory ambience of the place. To my delight, we encountered no country music.
Unfortunately, we were unable to experience one of the main draws of Vinyl Taco: the Social Room. This area is closed on Mondays and only open Wed-Sat from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Social Club area, with its ambiguous name, is the real talking point about Vinyl Taco, even though I could only stare at it from outside in. It’s by far larger than the restaurant-only part.
A section of the wall has shelves of lava lamps lining it up and down with the words “I lava you” in neon. (Look out PAve—I think I see a new rival for the stereotypical “I Love You” photo spot).
According to pictures I found on the interwebs, it looked as if it were a speakeasy or an elusive club with a small bowling alley inside, along with skeeball, pinball, a disco ball for getting jiggy and a large TV to play classics like Mario Kart. So, essentially, a Chuck-E-Cheese’s for adults.
The biggest drawback, however, is definitely the location. Located a block or so behind Scheels, it’s not the most centrally located for a typical young adult’s night out. A location closer to downtown might suit it better for the weekends, but perhaps the draw is not the taco-obsessed Augie student. Whilst we were dining there, the majority of the other diners were older.
But if you’re looking to stay put for most of the night, this is your place. It has Instagrammable decor, good food, many alcohols and fun games.
We came in search of margaritas and tacos, and we weren’t disappointed. I’m going to get the major spoiler out of the way: it came at an affordable price, too. My taco and drink only cost me $10, including a $2 tip (even though I’m poor, I still acknowledge the messed-up wage system that makes servers reliant on tips).
Also—sorry to the adults who don’t yet have adult perks—you must be 21 to enter. But hey, maybe you can pay someone to bring you back a taco some night.
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